What is Achalasia?

Achalasia is a rare disease of the muscle of the lower esophagus (swallowing tube). Achalasia is a chronic disease in which the nerve function deteriorates over time. In esophageal achalasia, the esophagus does not open to let food pass through, because there is a weakness in the smooth muscle inside the esophagus to move food down.

Symptoms of Achalasia

People who suffer from Achalasia may experience any number of symptoms, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Chest pain
  • Regurgitation
  • Heartburn

Diagnosing Achalasia

To test for achalasia, it is recommended to look at:

  • Esophageal manometry – This test measures the rhythmic muscle contractions in your esophagus when you swallow.
  • X-rays of your upper digestive system – X-rays taken after you drink a chalky liquid that coats and fills the inside lining of your digestive tract. This allows the physician to see a silhouette of the esophagus, stomach and upper intestine.
  • Upper endoscopy – Endoscopy can be used to define a partial blockage of the esophagus if symptoms indicate that possibility.

Treatments for Achalasia

Achalasia treatment focuses on relaxing or forcing opening of the lower esophageal sphincter so that food and liquid can move more easily through the digestive tract. Specific treatment will depend on the age and severity of the condition.